Two pieces on the relationship betwen Fiji and New Zealand and Australia in the wake of Cyclone Tomas
Timaru Herald via Fiji 2006
So-called heroes to the rescue
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's military dictator, has long been critical of New Zealand and Australia's bullying of his nation. Hopefully the events of the past few days will give him a chance to reconsider his position.
When Cyclone Tomas hit Fiji this week, bringing widespread devastation to parts of the island nation, Fiji's tormentors were quick to respond.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force had an aircraft with emergency supplies on its way to Fiji in short order, charged with flying over the northern islands to try and assess damage and get supplies to where they were urgently needed. The New Zealand Government has also dug deep and put up $1 million in cash to help out. Canberra also sent a surveillance aircraft and put up A$1 million ($1.29 million) in cash for the relief effort.
Commodore Bainimarama should consider whether these are the actions of bullies, or of reasonable governments who have the best interests of Fiji's people at heart. New Zealand and Australia's governments have every reason to be critical of Commodore Bainimarama's military dictatorship. He led a military coup in Fiji in 2006 because he did not like the way Fiji's democratically elected Government was headed. Since then he has ticked all the boxes of dictatorship.
He has suspended elections, sacked the judiciary, censored the media, suppressed his opponents by imprisoning them on trumped up charges and even attacked the Church for daring to voice opposition. The governments of New Zealand and Australia, as you would expect, have waved the protest flag time and time again and tried to bring him to heel through diplomatic pressure and the use of trade and travel sanctions.
The commodore has complained repeatedly that Wellington and Canberra do not understand Fiji's "special" problems. His chief reform, a new constitution, is aimed at doing away with its voting system which favours indigenous Fijians. His aim is to have a fair electoral system that will unite all Fijians and close the ethnic divides that have traditionally split the country. He needs at least another four years – on top of the four that have already rolled by since he seized power – to sort it and all will return to democratic elections in 2014.
History is littered with dictators who have justified their actions because of the "special" character of their problems. The truth is much simpler – governments are either democratically elected, or they are not. Commodore Bainimarama holds power in Fiji because he controls the guns. It is as simple as that.
This one from the Sydney Morning Herald via Matuvale.com
Fiji and Australia join forces
Relations between Australia and Fiji are frosty, but the nations are managing to co-operate in the wake of Cyclone Tomas.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said despite a 'strong difference' with the Fiji interim government, led by self-appointed prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the nations had banded together following the category-four cyclone.
'The co-operation on this point, as you would expect, has been the sort of professional diplomatic contact that we would want to see when there has been a serious natural disaster,' Mr Smith said.
Australia and New Zealand imposed travel bans on Fiji's military regime after Bainimarama led a coup in December 2006, ousting the democratically elected government.
Since then the regime has tightened its grip on power, overturning the constitution, sacking all judges, imposing widespread media censorship, expelling foreign journalists and arresting and harassing people that oppose it.
Fiji is suspended from the Pacific islands Forum and the result has been an increasingly rancorous relationship.
However, on Wednesday Australian and New Zealand Defence Force aircraft were recruited to conduct aerial surveys of the northern and eastern divisions of Fiji which bore the brunt of Tomas.
A state of natural disaster was declared in the South Pacific nation on Tuesday after gusts of wind peaking at over 200 kilometres per hour and massive storm surges wiped out homes, crushed crops and forced the evacuation of 17,000 people.
The Defence Force aircraft delivered emergency aid to Vanua Levu, Fiji's second-largest island, on Friday morning for distribution among the isolated islands.
'We, of course, have a strong difference with the Fiji interim government,' Mr Smith said.
\But we have no difference with the Fiji people and no difficulty in rendering Fiji, the people of Fiji, humanitarian assistance, as we have in the past.'
On Thursday night, the High Commission in Canberra tracked down the last nine Australians who had not been yet been accounted for in the battered regions of Fiji.
Fifty Australians were registered with the government as being in the area at the time of the cyclone.
Relief co-ordinator for the Fiji Disaster Management Office, Anthony Blake, said aerial surveys revealed the northern and central islands in the Lau Group had been the most severely affected by Tomas.
The Lomaiviti Group of islands copped 'extensive damaged' caused by powerful storm surges and in northern island of Cikobia, seven of the 15 houses there 'did fall over'.
Mr Blake said recovery efforts were focused on schools and shelter - 1200 tarpaulins had been distributed and 363 people remained in evacuation centres.